A farmer gathers arid corn crops on his farm in Kwale January 27, 2009. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga
The BRACED programme spans three years, two continents and a multitude of projects working in different contexts. The overall aim of the programme is to strengthen community resilience to enhance the lives of up to 5 million people vulnerable to climate extremes.
Being able to collectively say something coherent about how the programme is bringing about change in resilience is a challenge – one that most development programmes face. How can we quantify something so intangible, and in differing contexts?
With a monitoring system in place from the offset, BRACED is already seeing emerging themes and evidence across the programme. And it’s not just the traditional log-frame reporting that is used to capture this evidence.
“There are lots of stories behind a particular activity, like a farmers’ group training, that log-frames are unable to capture,” said Paula Silva Villanueva, an M&E expert and a member of the BRACED Knowledge Manager.
“Through our synthesis work we’re able to ask the ‘so what?’ question – to dig deeper and find out what actually has changed as a result of a particular activity.”
The team provide light touch one-to-one support to partners implementing projects on the ground so that anecdotes are also captured in the reporting.
A new report, Routes to resilience: insights from BRACED year 1, details initial achievements from the programme after the first year of its implementation.
These range from building effective partnerships to enabling access to climate information, changes in attitudes and behaviour and integrating women’s economic empowerment into project design.
The report also details a number of patterns emerging across the 15 projects, despite varying contexts. For example, communities are successfully building their capacity to anticipate and absorb climate shocks and stresses.
However, the report finds that the capacity to adapt to climate extremes is more of a long-term change that may not be measurable within the three-year-timeframe of BRACED. This time dimension is something that should be incorporated into the design, the report authors said.
There are a number of constraints to balance, too: for example, should a programme focus on the socio-economic and political dimensions of building resilience, or on building communities’ capacity to deal with shocks and stresses? The report finds that in the case of BRACED, the emphasis is often on the latter, but that the socio-economic and political context is equally as important.
Lessons from BRACED tell us that when we invest in resilience, it’s not about the start and the end: communities and NGOs were, are and still will be building resilience long before and after a three-year project.
Rather, investments in resilience should take into account the broader context – what has happened before and what will happen after the project – and support the ongoing resilience building journey of a community, to enable systematic change to happen in the long term.
A companion paper Routes to resilience: lessons from monitoring BRACED reflects on the BRACED approach to tracking resilience, which captures not just the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ and the ‘how.’
This kind of evaluation not only enables donors, project staff and project beneficiaries to know what achievements are realistic; but can help shape how future programmes are designed, to make a bigger impact on the lives of vulnerable people.